Researchers at Karolinska Institutet have identified the mechanisms behind the serious, congenital heart condition that can sometimes develop in children of women with a rheumatic disease.
This serious form of congenital heart disease, known as AV heart block, develops when a certain type of antibody is transferred from the mother to the foetus during pregnancy. The antibodies are targeted against endogenous proteins and cause the inflammation and calcification of the foetal cardiac conduction system. One in three of such cases are fatal to the foetus, and approximately 70 per cent of the babies born alive require life-long pacemaker treatment.
The mothers normally have a rheumatic disease, such as Sjögren’s syndrome or SLE. In virtually all cases of congenital heart block, the mother produces antibodies against the Ro and La autoantigens, but in only 2-5 per cent of pregnancies amongst Ro and La positive women does this heart condition arise.
Tina Zethraeus | alfa
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